After 12 years away, the Hornets name has officially returned to Charlotte. The city's NBA team finalized its name-change from the Bobcats to the Hornets Tuesday.
More than 200 fans and Hornets employees crowded into the Time Warner Cable Arena to hear team president Fred Whitfield make the change.
“It is my honor and privilege to officially welcome the Hornets name back to its rightful home here in Charlotte,” he announces to cheers and applause.
The team has spent more than $4 million on re-branding over the past year, though Executive Vice President Pete Guelli says it’s already paying off.
“As we launched the process last off-season, more than 2,000 new season tickets holders joined our team, and we had 90 percent of our fans renew their tickets,” Guelli says, “That put us in the top ten in the league in both categories, and that was just in anticipation of the name returning.”
The Hornets was the name of Charlotte’s first NBA team. It sold out almost all of its home games from 1988 through 1997. But the team moved in 2002 after owner George Shinn couldn't get a deal on a new arena. Two years later, Charlotte got a new NBA team, the Bobcats, but they never achieved the popularity and success of their predecessor.
Whitfield says fans should happy to know the team will get more than just the name back.
“All the statistical information, records, and history of Charlotte NBA history will also be returning to our franchise,” he says.
Those things had lived with the New Orleans Hornets since the team moved. When that team changed its name to the Pelicans last year, the Hornets' name and records became available. Now Charlotte's franchise will include the original Hornets era and the Bobcats era in its history.
And although the name change has been a long time coming, it'll still take a little getting used to, as evidenced by one of the team’s spokesmen:
“Alright, that concludes our program today,” the spokesman said as the press conference wrapped up, “The video of today’s event will be available on bobcats - excuse me - hornets.com.”
Well, we knew someone was bound to do it.